Wednesday, April 16, 2014

IOT 14 in Cambridge

I went to this. I can't remember the last time I found a public event of this kind so interesting and so much fun. Fantastic speakers, great venue (who wants to spend a day in the dreary subterranean basement of another corporate hotel?), superb organisation, and a really nice bouncy spirit in the way the sessions were organised and chaired. Just brilliant. Other conference event organizers should watch, and probably watch out.

I hope to post another piece about what was most interesting, but didn't want to leave it another day.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Another day, another low power wireless company

Six months ago I didn't know any companies pursuing this opportunity, even though some of them have been at it for a while and have successful implementations to point at. Now I fall over them all the time, and suddenly the industry mainstream, including proper grown-equipment vendors and even network operators want to talk about this.

The company du jour is Senaptic, which has just come out of stealth mode, having been incubated within equipment vendor Plextek. The latter is precisely one of those companies that has been ploughing the low-power IoT furrow for years - 25, to be precise. Its technology is deployed in the LoJack vehicle tracking system, in a smart parking system in Moscow, and is also used by Telensa in supporting smarter street lights in British cities.

Unlike fellow low-power wireless provider Sigfox Senaptic aims to be a technology provider, not a network operator. It plans to sell systems to organisations (mainly enterprises, but also local authorities) to use for their own purposes - tracking, monitoring, controlling, whatever. So there is no need for the kind of OSS that a public network would require, to provision devices, manage their subscriptions, bill for usage etc.
But it's not 'merely' a connectivity play - it also offers a platform that does include an OSS, applications, and of course devices.

At the moment Senaptic has only six employees, though the system is still supported by staff within Plextek. In the slightly longer run it aims to have about 100 people.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Review of The Past

Not what you'd call a feelgood film but no less perfect for that. The dynamics of interlocking families in what looks to be a working-class outer suburb of Paris; an Iranian man who has left his wife to return to Iran, but is now returning to France to complete their divorce so that she can marry another immigrant man, even though his wife is still alive, albeit in a coma. The impacts of all of this on the children of the woman (not the Iranian man's, but he clearly loves them and is loved by them) and the second man's son.

Like real life - just as tragic and muddled, only even sadder.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Review of Sunshine on Leith

A feel-good film that didn't actually make me feel all that good - wooden two dimensional characters, leaden dialogue, contrived script. It aims to do for The Proclaimers' songs what Mamma Mia did for the oeuvre of Abba, but it didn't do it for me. Maybe I don't know the songs enough; the only one that I really do know and like, 'Letter from America', is thrown away. The song is about the sadness and loss of emigration, and it's turned into a family's farewell to a young woman going to work as a nurse in a fancy hospital in Florida as part of her yearning for adventure and career development.  That says it all, I think.

BTW I watched this immediately after Rio, a cartoon film about birds. The cartoon birds were more fully developed characters than the ones in Sunshine on Leith.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Review of The Zero Theorem

Another disappointment from Terry Gilliam. Visually arresting, disappointing in terms of plot, characters, emotional engagement...pretty much everything. I know that a film is bad when I find myself checking my watch to see how long it's got left.

A shame, because it's not as if he lacks imagination. The situation - an 'analyst' in some vast incomprehensible corporation gets put on to a special project to do with the meaning of life - is not uninteresting. There are lots of nice visual gags - I particularly liked the interactive billboards that greet male characters with "Hello Madam", surely a joke on the interactive signage in Minority Report. It's always better when sophisticated technology screws up in movies, though it rarely does - film-makers obviously don't use the same stuff as the rest of us.

Other stuff is a bit derivative, though. The workstations where employees have to cycle - weren't they in an episode of Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror? The interactive sex site and the virtual reality suits, the mainframe that looks like a Victorian pumping station...even the music was cheesy.

Maybe Gilliam should find some more interesting collaborators.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Review of Copenhagen performed by students at Kings College London

I really enjoyed this, even though I'd recently seen the TV production. It's a brilliant play and the students really did it justice. Especially hard for Freddie Fullerton, who is young but has to play an older, avuncular character but I think he pulled it off rather well. The script is great, of course, but so was the acting - the actors' mannerisms really conveyed the characters they were playing.

Who would have thought you could do so much with such a minimal set (though a rather good room for it with appropriate fittings and fixtures) and three actors?

And why isn't Michael Frayn as recognised as he ought to be? The way that this play addresses both the scientific and the moral issues is little short of genius. The fact that the answers to the latter aren't cut and dried, as they would be in Howard Brenton or David Hare, just adds to the brilliance.

It is still on for one more night - tonight (16th March). Go and see it if you can.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Review of "The Grand Budapest Hotel"

A really enjoyable romp of a film, with great sets and scenery, super cast, lots of good verbal and visual
jokes...what's not to like?

There is a somewhat complex nested narrative structure. It starts with a girl by the grave of a fictional famous writer. She is reading his book. Most of the story is then the story of the book, told by a younger version of the writer; but it's told to him by a now-old man who is himself, as a boy, one of the main characters of the story. From time to time we drop back to the old man telling the story to the young writer, but mainly it stays in the entirely fictional 1930s, in two entirely fictional central European countries. Neither of them are Germany or Poland, oh no, definitely not. Lots of brilliant visual details, in prison scenes, bakery scenes, etc. I loved the decor of the hotel and the writer's apartment in what must be the Communist era - just the right combination of artless cheer and drab.

Curiously the closing credits say it's based on the stories of Stephan Zweig, but if like me you are not a big Zweig fan don't let that put you off - it's much funnier than anything he wrote.